The Dog At the Library…Flash Fiction

“Is that your dog?” the woman gushed. Rufus had worked his magic, drawing the stranger into his swirling vortex of feverish anxiety. He was constantly recruiting strangers as therapists.

“I’m so sorry! I was just dropping off a library book. Can’t leave him alone for five minutes. Separation anxiety.”

Howling and running around in circles, Rufus was wrapped around the pole, almost strangling himself.

Yet, Rufus was a survivor. It’s not often that an Old English Sheepdog ends up at the pound.

Rufus at pound

Rufus at the pound.

Then again, I’d never heard of one called “Loopy” before.

That’s why we called him Rufus.

The Boys 2

Rufus with our original Border Collie, Zorro.

March 2, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a library. You can honor the libraries in your own experience, dream about libraries of the future or explore a community without one. Bonus points for discovering something you didn’t know your library offered.

……………..

This flash was based on our Old English Sheepdog, Rufus, who has subsequently crossed over the rainbow bridge.

Not long after we got married and moved into our own place, Geoff and I brought Zorro, a pure-bred Border Collie, home from the pound. This was before we had kids and as newlyweds, Zorro became our surrogate child. I was working 3 days a week as well as renovating our house: painting rooms, making curtains and completely overhauling the garden. Just like a much loved only child, Zorro went everywhere with us. Moreover, just like so many parents, we loved our one dog soooo much, we thought about getting another…No. 2…a friend for Zorro…a sibling!

Sound familiar?

I had already been reading the dog ads in the local paper like a desperado glued to the personals. That was how I found out about the Old English Sheepdog at the pound…Loopy.

Thrilled, I dragged Geoff up there at break neck speed before we missed out. I’d never thought about owning my own Old English Sheepdog They’re so cute!!!

Anyway, when we arrived at the pound, things with this Old English Sheepdog weren’t so good. He had severe eczema, was severely underweight and malnourished and had just been returned to the RSPCA for chasing cats. The dog was also called Loopy, which I thought was a bit inappropriate for an Old English Sheepdog. So, that name should have set off alarm bells as well. Loopy was loopy and changing his name was never going to stop that.

Obviously, this was no glowing report card and although some alarm bells went off, all I remember hearing was: “POTENTIAL”. Just sort out his skin, fatten him up and we’d have a great dog. If you have ever been duped by the words “renovator’s dream”, then you’ll know exactly what I mean.

We went home to think about it. Went back with Zorro and they got on alright and we arrived home with Rufus, the re-badged Loopy, in tow.

The next day when I went to work, we left Rufus on a running lead. Much to my horror, when I arrived home, Rufus was all but choking. He’d been walking round and round in circles and the clip had gotten caught up in his fur and he couldn’t move at all. I virtually had to perform surgery to cut him loose. Indeed, he was lucky he didn’t strangle himself.

This was just the beginning of his loopiness, or running round in circles so stressed that he looked possessed. Thunder storms were hell. We’d lock him in the house to keep him safe and then he’d run round and round our kitchen table in circles frothing at the mouth with his heart almost pounding out of his chest. We’d try to get him to sit and lie down and perhaps we should’ve looked into medication but I didn’t really think about medicating pets back then.

We knew absolutely nothing about rescue dogs. Indeed, we had not been warned that he had some really deep-seated issues and may not be suited to family life. That he wasn’t just a dog looking for a new home but was a rescue dog in the true sense of the word needing a lot of work, training and patience. We were about to start a family and in retrospect, getting a second dog wasn’t a bright idea in the first place. Then, I also developed my health/disability issues just to complicate matters further.

I know this has become “dobbing on Rufus day” but his emotional issues were just the tip of quite a deep ice berg. He’d jump up onto the kitchen bench stealing food, swallowing it plastic bag and all, no doubt doing dreadful damage to his stomach. Also, because his jaw didn’t quite meet, he’d end up slobbering and then shake his head and goop would fly across the room, splatting on the wall. Charming!! He also tried biting Geoff a few times…not good!

The two dogs accommodated each other better than Bilbo and Lady did at first. However, I couldn’t help feeling that Zorro was thinking: “What the heck have you done?” They were like the original Felix and Oscar from The Odd Couple. Zorro was always neat and he almost looked like he was in a three-piece suit with his black and white fur. Rufus was a scruffy, dribbling rogue anarchist. Even at the beach, he took off after a sea gull and ran a couple of kilometres away in seconds. He seemed totally beyond management.

We are not dog rescue types and we had two kids during that time. It definitely wasn’t an easy time and I was also coming down with a debilitating Auto-Immune disease which was eating away my muscles.Under such grueling circumstances, why did we battle on with such a challenging dog when we could have walked away? Sent him back.

I don’t know. Being an eternal optimist, perhaps I kept hoping our efforts would work. Also, once we’d brought Rufus home and made him part of our family, we couldn’t send him back. That it didn’t matter whether a family member was human or canine. We couldn’t give up on him. Throw him out. After all, given his issues, it would be difficult for the RSPCA to re-home him. I couldn’t just lead him to the slaughterhouse.

Perhaps, if we’d known a suitable home for him, it would’ve been different but I certainly didn’t want to be him killed. We loved him. Perhaps not warts and all but despite all his issues, he was a fabulous dog!!

He was an extremely loving, affectionate dog with an exuberance and enthusiasm matching his anxiety…a tension between yin and yang.

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Mister & Rufus

The children adored Rufus and would climb all over him like a horse. He was beautiful with them..even when they pulled his fur.

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Who wouldn’t love Rufus?!! He was adorable!

He also had huge chocolate brown eyes and would look at you with such love and adoration. You were his world and you could throw your arms around him and he was so hugable.

We loved Rufus.

Then, one morning, we woke up and Rufus was lying on the back deck. He didn’t move. Didn’t respond when I called him. Rufus had passed away, crossing over the rainbow bridge.

A few days later, we welcomed Bilbo into our family. Being a pup, he was obviously much smaller than Rufus and our 2 year old son was quite upset. Wanted a big dog.

Bilbo grew up.

By the way, we have subsequently adopted Lady as a two year old dog. That adoption has gone really well.

What we have probably learned from our experience with Rufus is the importance of carefully matching dogs and humans. Not everyone is positioned to take on a rescue dog and people who are buying puppies also need to make sure they can handle the adult dog. Dogs really love their humans and it’s not fair to keep re-homing them. They’re a lifelong commitment.

Inevitably, thinking about how to respond to troubled or “broken” dogs, raises the whole question of people. If we send a dog back to the pound due to mental health and behavioural issues, what is that saying about people experiencing these challenges. That’s been front of mind while I’ve been writing this. This is, of course, a very complex issue but I have to believe that while love alone may not be enough to pull someone through, it certainly goes a long way. Yet, loving someone who is struggling, isn’t always easy or straightforward but we have to persevere. We also have to have faith and believe in ourselves as we struggle as well. Life and people are incredibly complex and diverse. Not something you can neatly sum up in a few words.

Somehow, my 99 word flash fiction has expanded into a psychological journey. One which I need to shut down at this point so I can get to bed.

Have you ever had a struggling rescue pet and how did it go?

xx Rowena

 

24 thoughts on “The Dog At the Library…Flash Fiction

  1. Charli Mills

    What a beautiful post and photos of Rufus! We have two German Short-haired Pointers which are high energy. After we lost our home and had to uproot them from the place where they had been born, they developed separation anxiety to the extreme. Our car is now their den on wheels. They go where we go. It can be tough but when you know a dog’s love, you do what you need to do to make it work. Great flash and back story! Thanks!

  2. roweeee Post author

    Sorry to hear they’ve developed separation anxiety. Dogs seem to be prone to it. I like what you say about your car being their “den on wheels”.
    For the first month we had Lady, she was frenetically friendly and it took us a few weeks for us to realise that wasn’t her natural personality but her way of saying: “Thanks. I’ve had a wonderful holiday but it’s time for you to take me home now.” She’s adjusted well. We adopted her 18 months ago thinking Bilbo was not doing so well but he perked up and lost 15 kilos and got a second wind.
    I know what you mean about a dog’s love. It’s in a league all of its own! xx Rowena

  3. roweeee Post author

    That’s so good that you could give her a home and you gained such a special addition to your family. My dogs give me such unconditional love. I think humans could take a few lessons!

  4. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Lisa. My heart melted revisiting those photos of my son riding Rufus. Everywhere we took him, people kept saying: “that dog is as big as a horse”. As troubled as he was, there was something very special about that dog!

  5. New Journey

    Love your story….I feel like you, a pet is part of the family, not something to be thrown back…Rufus looked like a loveable soul…so happy he was good for the kids….you amaze me woman!!!! and I love how your stories take on a life of there own..xxkat.

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  7. merrildsmith

    Poor Rufus, but it sounds like you gave him a good life. And of course Bilbo and Lady live wonderful lives indeed. 🙂

    Both of our cats are rescues. One of them the shelter people called “demon cat,” and I don’t know would have happened to him if we hadn’t taken him. He is such a sweetie, but only with people he knows (and for some reason he does not like our daughter-in-law) 🙂

  8. roweeee Post author

    My poor friend house minded with Rufus and absolutely fell in love with him and he died a week later. Telling her, aside from Mister’s reaction, was the hardest part of losing him.
    I think he really does represent that combination of good and bad in all of us…yin and yang.
    By the way, I visited my daughter’s school yesterday and their school library has been revamped and called the “I Centre”. We received a form home for a technology course and it looks like she will be doing 3D printing. Looks like I am being left behind as rapidly as she is zooming ahead. My son too! Soon they’ll be dispatching me to Jurassic Park.

  9. roweeee Post author

    Animals are so funny…especially cats. They really don’t muck around pretending to be nice. If they don’t like you, that’s it.
    I love your story of “demon cat” and it’s so good you could give him such a good home and love.

  10. merrildsmith

    He is so funny. He doesn’t like any changes, and he will only eat one flavor or one type of cat food. He doesn’t even like treats. (He does like bugs though–and the mouse he caught.)

  11. roweeee Post author

    Laughed at the mouse. Sounds like Bilbo and your cat are half-related. He only eats one brand of dog food. At least, it’s the cheap no frills brand. Bilbo, on the other, is constantly on the look out for treats. I’m currently having toast (yes, Vegemite on one slice and peanut butter on the other) and Bilbo’s chin is no on my foot but his begging was rather in my face there until he gave up competing with the lap top.

  12. roweeee Post author

    I doubt it but Geoff has wanting to get one. They seem quite extraordinary…like something out of science fiction. Beam me up, Scotty!

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  14. roweeee Post author

    He was such a dear mixed-up mutt. There’s an Old English Sheepdog locally I sometimes see at the beach. Used to see him every morning along with his friend, a Lassie Collie (not the usual types of dogs you see at the beach and they’re just lovely.) I’m sure they’re still there every morning but our walking schedule is more erratic and I tend to go late afternoon in Summer.

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